The Cost of “Petty” Property Crimes: An Insurance Agent’s Perspective

The Cost of “Petty” Property Crimes:  An Insurance Agent’s Perspective

I grew up and still live in what I consider to be one of the City of St. Louis’ best neighborhoods, the Holly Hills area of South St. Louis.  Carondelet Park is the centerpiece of this grand old neighborhood.  In very many ways we still enjoy a “small town feel”, where folks know their neighbors, kids still can walk or ride their bikes to school and you can enjoy the park or walking the streets with your dog and feel fairly safe. 

The world, of course, has changed a lot and everyone simply has to be more alert of their surroundings than was needed 30 or 40 years ago……at least that is true in my neighborhood.   Petty crime has always been an issue in the City of St. Louis and I would jokingly say that every 2 years or so I would be unwillingly required to “pay” a voluntary tax of a stolen bike, lawnmower, smashed car or garage window,  etc…..I was willing to be a victim of these minor nuisance crimes because of all the other things I absolutely love about city living.

Then about 2 years ago, gun violence and other personal assault crimes began to enter into the picture.  I was not willing to accept that level of threat.  The choices, of course are to leave the city (and that is a decision made by countless citizens), hunker down and really try to shut out the problem or stay and fight back against crime.  My wife and I have chosen the latter.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of many neighbors a neighborhood watch involving dozens of volunteers has taken root.  We drive, we walk, we stay in communication with our neighbors and try to keep each other as safe as possible while cooperating with local police.  As PART of this endeavor (and fighting crime and getting at the root causes of crime have MANY parts), I thought local cops walking a beat would be a good idea.  Every police officer I know as a friend or client has to work a secondary job to support their family.  That also is another problem facing my city, but it is over my pay grade!  You see off duty officers at Cardinal games, the local YMCA, bars, restaurants, banks……..and to have these same officers walking and patrolling the very area where many of them live and grew up made a lot of sense to me.  Hiring off duty officers is nothing new but trying to get several hundred families to buy into the idea of donating $20 per month to accomplish this goal is. 

 The true cost of safety is found not in anger, but in action and $20 a month. 

The true cost of safety is found not in anger, but in action and $20 a month. 

Currently we are registering names of neighbors who are willing to donate and the response has been fantastic.  We have 160 families willing to help and are well on our way to our goal of 500.  In St. Louis we have dozens and dozens of tiny neighborhoods.  Crime stats are easy to get from local police in these areas.  For me, a common sense rule of thumb is if you can walk somewhere in 10 minutes from where you live, that is still your neighborhood.  Within that 10-minute walk of my front door are at least 4 “neighborhoods” where crime stats are kept.  These include:  Holly Hills, Carondelet Park, Boulevard Heights, Carondelet (not to be confused with the park), Bevo Mill, Dutchtown and I’m sure a couple more!

My financial idea of the $20 per month is based on the following scenario.   If there were just 50 property-only crimes within that 1 square mile of my front door this would be the economic cost as I see it coming from an insurance agent’s point of view. 

When there is some “petty” theft or vandalism to your home or car, a deductible comes into play 99% of the time.  That deductible is EASILY $250 per occurrence, and more practically is $500 or even $1000.  50 property crimes per month with a $250 deductible equates to $12,500 per month, collectively.  Then of course, you discover the smashed car window or garage break-in as you are leaving for work, so many times you have to call into work to hassle with the aftermath of the “petty crime.”  Let’s just say half of the victims had to work and take just a half day off via vacation day or lost wages…..that would easily equal another couple thousand dollars.  When the value of the property is greater than your deductible of $250 the insurance company gets involved and could easily payout another $12,500 in claims per month.  As an insurance agent I can tell you that claims increase premiums and just for comparison sake, I changed my own personal auto policy to 63129 as opposed to 63116.  On this change ALONE, my family would save $2000 per year in auto insurance costs.  There are lots of factors that go into this but I can say with confidence we are all paying higher insurance costs regardless of being a victim of crime or not.

I purposely left out any discussion of the effect that crimes against persons, as opposed to property, can have on a family.  As a family that suffered greatly in that area, I can tell you there is no amount of time, money or effort you would not pay to prevent something terrible happening to your loved ones.

Some will say that we already pay taxes for police and of course that is true.  I can also tell you that in the City of St. Louis the police are underpaid and in many cases overworked.  No one person can do everything but collectively many people can accomplish a lot.  The $20 per month contributions will go a very long way in my neighborhood and those areas immediately surrounding the Holly Hills area.  It will allow us to hire off duty officers to go back to walking a neighborhood beat, with a partner officer.   The trust and respect that officers and citizens need can be enhanced and greater understanding and cooperation will be realized.  In short, I think it is the best $20 per month I have ever spent.

Steve Butz